Snowboarding, Surfing, Gymnastics: Here Are 14 APIA Women Athletes Repping Team USA Right Now
Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) women have more than made their mark on American sports. Michelle Kwan, Kyla Ross, Kristi Yamaguchi, Chloe Kim (more on her in a minute) — the list goes on, and to watch these talented athletes do their thing at the highest level for Team USA is a joy.
Ahead are a few of the APIA women doing big things on the field, court, rink, and beyond for Team USA, and this is just the start! These athletes are dominating as we speak, but they're also inspiring a whole new generation to do the same, breaking down boundaries and winning medals as they go. Check out a few of these must-know athletes and start following them now, if you're not already, because they've got big things on the horizon.
To learn more about all the Olympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics this summer on NBC.
At 18, Sunisa Lee is in a great position to make her first Olympic team in a stacked US field. She turned heads at the 2019 World Championships, winning gold in the team event, bronze on uneven bars, and silver on floor (behind only the GOAT herself, Simone Biles). With her combination of artistry and strength, Lee is definitely one to watch at this year's Olympic Trials!
Karen Chen, a 2018 Olympian, has been carving up the ice since her senior debut in 2016 and has placed fourth in two World Championships. She's currently taking a leave of absence from Cornell to focus on figure skating, hoping to earn herself a berth to the 2022 Winter Olympics, and she's put herself in a good spot to do so. Thanks to Chen's strong fourth-place finish at the 2021 World Championships, she and ninth-place finisher Bradie Tennell ensured that the US will bring three women figure skaters to Beijing next year.
Softball is back in the Olympics, and Dejah Mulipola is ready to make an impact. The 23-year-old catcher played for Arizona at the collegiate level and has starred for the US at competitions like the Pan American Games and the Japan Cup. Next up? Helping the US reclaim Olympic gold in Tokyo.
Chloe Kim hardly needs an introduction. The Olympic-gold-medal-winning snowboarder became a superstar after stealing the show at the 2018 Winter Olympics, continuing to rack up big competition wins even after taking time off to attend Princeton (NBD). Now she's added media company cofounder to her résumé, and she's nowhere near done with the halfpipe (or the business world) yet.
Wheelchair-tennis player Dana Mathewson has multiple World Cup appearances on her résumé, nabbed a gold in doubles at the 2019 Parapan American Games, and made her debut at the Paralympic Games in 2016. Qualifying for Tokyo is next on the slate for the No. 10 wheelchair-tennis player in the world.
Carissa Moore is coming off her fourth World Surf League world championship, and all she's done in 2021 is back up that accomplishment with a string of dominant competitions. The Hawaii native secured her spot for Tokyo in 2019 and is currently ranked No. 1 in the world, so yeah, you could say she's peaking at the right time.
Ice dancer Madison Chock and partner Evan Bates never fail to impress with their performances (we're still thinking about their sinuous "snake charmer" free dance from 2019-2020). With Bates, Chock has been to two Olympics and earned silver and bronze at two world championships, and her creative routines have us feeling like the best is yet to come. Fun fact: Chock designs their skating costumes herself and is a talented artist as well.
Sakura Kokumai made headlines when she became the first American to qualify for the Olympics in karate. (The sport makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo this summer.) She competes in kata, a discipline in which athletes perform a series of precise and powerful movements in front of a panel of judges. The Hawaii native is currently ranked sixth in the world after earning gold at the 2019 Pan American Games!
Hailey Langland competed at the 2018 Olympics in the slopestyle discipline, placing sixth, and in big air, placing eighth. The San Clemente, CA, native is hoping to improve on those finishes as she looks to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Lee Kiefer has been fencing since the age of 5, and now she's a two-time Olympian who's already qualified for Tokyo. The 26-year-old has earned three medals at the world championships, including a gold in 2018, and is the first American woman to earn a No. 1 ranking in the foil discipline.
When Maia Shibutani and ice-dancing partner (and brother) Alex won bronze at the 2018 Winter Olympics, they became the first ice dancers of Asian descent to medal at the Olympics. (PS: they were already the first to do it at the World Championships.) Their journey since has been a difficult one; in October 2019, a cancerous tumor was found on Maia's kidney, requiring surgery and a long recovery. The 26-year-old ice dancer says she's cancer-free now, and the siblings (and published authors of two children's books!) are working their way back to the ice.
Badminton player Beiwen Zhang previously represented China and Singapore but has competed for the US since 2013. She's brought major success to Team USA, winning three Grand Prix titles in 2014 alone and becoming the top-ranked women's singles player in the US, slotting in at No. 13 in the world — and all of this despite not having a national training center or even a coach. Qualifying for Tokyo is next, and if Zhang keeps her current ranking, she has a great shot.
Fun fact: Laura Zeng became the first US rhythmic gymnast to win a medal at the Youth Olympic Games when she nabbed an all-around bronze in 2014. The US has never medaled at the Olympics in rhythmic gymnastics, but Zeng, a 2016 Olympian, hopes to change that this year. She's off to a good start: she was part of the team that secured two Olympic rhythmic gymnastics spots for Team USA, the first time that's happened since 1992.